SAN QUENTIN, Calif. – A refugee who served a 25-year-sentence at San Quentin Jail is now slated to be deported again to Cambodia, regardless of the pleas of activists who say he has modified his life for the higher and does not even have recollections of the homeland he fled as a baby.
Phoeun You, 47, might be deported any day.
“I’ve anxiousness and worry,” You mentioned Wednesday in a telephone name from the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield. “I am waking into the unknown. All my household is right here.”
As he’s caught in detention, associates like Borey “Peejay” A are actually working with the Asian Prisoner Help Committee to struggle for You’s launch.
“I do know him personally,” Ai mentioned. “He is a longtime buddy. I’ve watched him mentor different individuals. He has devoted his life to serving to individuals and being held accountable.”
The Asian Jail Help Committee and others are actually making an attempt to spotlight You’s story, placing stress on Gov. Gavin Newsom to pardon him and the California Division of Corrections to cease ICE transfers.
“That is the magic wand,” mentioned Chanthon Bun, a group advocate for Advancing Justice – Asian Regulation Caucus. “A pardon from the governor.”
It is not clear their efforts will work.
Regardless of California being a sanctuary state, the jail system just isn’t exempt from cooperating with ICE.
As well as, You was convicted of homicide, which additionally makes his case exempt from sanctuary standing.
A invoice referred to as the VISION Act, which might have made You eligible to return residence earlier than being deported to offer him time to discover a lawyer didn’t move the Legislature final session and was placed on maintain.
Newsom’s workplace didn’t reply.
CDCR spokeswoman Dana Simas acknowledged in an electronic mail that You was launched on Jan. 5 and is now not in jail custody. She declined to state any greater than that.
You is one in all many refugees and undocumented immigrants who’ve skilled what advocates name “double punishment:” direct switch to ICE and eventual deportation instantly after ending a jail sentence, even when they’ve everlasting residency within the U.S.
In 2020, 1,615 immigrants or refugees in California’s jail system have been transferred by ICE.
Though You’s destiny appears sealed, his associates and activists need the general public to know his full story and present that he’s a modified man.
Phoeun You tells his personal story
You grew to become a journalist throughout his confinement in San Quentin and wrote his personal story, now being disseminated by the prisoner assist group.
As he tells it, You was born in 1975, shortly earlier than the Cambodian genocide and the take-over of the Khmer Rouge.
When he was 4 years previous, his household escaped and located a refugee camp in Thailand.
He and his household resettled in Ogden, Utah. They lived there for about 5 years after which moved to Lengthy Seashore, Calif., to be nearer to different Cambodian communities in 1985.
Siblings Paul You, left, and Nikki Bunyou pose for a portrait holding a photograph of their brother Phoeun You on April 5, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. You is at present in ICE detention. Picture by Bridget Bennett | Survival Media Company
He struggled as a child.
Like many Southeast Asian refugee youth round him, he was bullied in school. He was focused by different youngsters, leading to fixed combating and violence. For a way of belonging and safety, he mentioned he joined a gang at 13 years previous.
He additionally had 9 different siblings and lived in a 15-person family and consistently confronted housing and meals insecurity.
He mentioned that his household was pressured to maneuver out from one residence to a different because of the excessive value of residing.
You and his household additionally struggled with the trauma from surviving conflict and genocide with no culturally competent sources. He mentioned he started abusing medication and alcohol.
When he turned 16, his brother was shot eight instances in a gang capturing. That was an emotional turning level for him.
He ended up shifting to Las Vegas to reside along with his uncle.
At 18, he graduated from highschool and began work as a recreation operator in a on line casino.
In 1993, he moved again to California to reconnect along with his household.
Someday in 1995, You mentioned he stood exterior his nephew’s college ready to choose him up.
A automotive rushed in the direction of him and about six gang members got here out throwing punches.
You mentioned this triggered recollections of virtually shedding his brother to gang violence and his personal expertise of being bullied as a baby.
He and his nephew – each of whom have been punched – looked for the rival gang members to confront them.
After hours of driving, You mentioned he opened hearth right into a crowd. He killed a 17-year-old in March 1995.
You was arrested and convicted of first-degree homicide and sentenced to 35 years to life.
He was 20 years previous.
Accomplishments at San Quentin
In 2007, You was transferred to San Quentin State Jail, the place he mentioned he determined to channel his grief into his therapeutic and progress.
He labored as a format designer and author for San Quentin Information and joined the Society of Skilled Journalists.
Being a journalist taught You to contextualize his expertise whereas holding himself accountable to decisions he’s made and their penalties.
He and a few friends grew to become a founding member of ROOTS, or Restoring Our Authentic True Selves,, a self-help program that connects prisoners to their historical past and tradition by way of schooling and restorative justice applications.
He grew to become an alumnus with the Final Mile, an entrepreneurship program that mixes expertise and enterprise. He realized the right way to work with sheet metallic.
He grew to become licensed as a counselor by Bay Space Girls Towards Rape.
In 2015, You graduated with an AA diploma from Patten College.
Final August, You certified for a parole listening to as a result of he was incarcerated at a younger age, and was beneficial for early launch by the Board of Parole Hearings.
If he have been an American citizen, he would have merely been launched after his jail time period.
However as a result of he’s a Cambodian citizen and convicted of a violent crime, his deportation is probably going imminent.
You has accepted this and although he’s scared, additionally mentioned that he looks like he can face the brand new chapter in his life as a result of he’ll not less than be free, even when he’s far-off from his household in California.
Even so, You’s supporters aren’t giving up. They’re nonetheless writing the governor and so they’re nonetheless hoping to alter the regulation.
“I am very hopeful,” mentioned Bun from the Asian Regulation Caucus. “I’ve to reside on hope.”